Wide Charismatic not outside rules

Pimlico stewards content fellow jockey didn't aid Antley's Preakness ride

May 25, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

After his euphoric ride aboard Charismatic in the Preakness, Chris Antley thanked fellow jockey Gary Stevens, who rode Stephen Got Even, for letting Charismatic swing wide around the far turn and launch his winning move.

Antley's comment prompted the Pimlico stewards, who enforce the rules of racing, to review tapes of the race and question both jockeys. Antley and Stevens are close friends. And it prompted Nicholas Di Tullo, a racing fan from Columbia, to write the Maryland Racing Commission.

"I know it's good for racing to have a Triple Crown winner," wrote Di Tullo, a retired civil engineer. "But gambling is also involved, and anything that smacks of an impropriety should be fully investigated."

After their informal investigation, the Pimlico stewards determined that nothing improper had occurred.

"Antley said he was just so excited after the race that he wanted to thank everybody," said Bill Passmore, a steward and former jockey. "But we looked at the film, and Stevens did not let him out."

As Charismatic approached the far turn in the Preakness, he appeared trapped behind a wall of horses. But as he began rounding the bend, a small hole opened. Charismatic surged inside Stephen Got Even, passed him and then swung wide in front of Stephen Got Even, bumping him slightly.

In separate interviews, Stevens and Antley concurred that nothing untoward happened. Antley acknowledged giving an incorrect account of events.

"After the race, my adrenalin was running really high," Antley said. "I just wanted to thank Gary for his support, for hollering at me, `Go on, little buddy.' "

As Stevens said: "The Ant was a little excited after the race."

Here is Stevens' account of what happened:

"As we were going into the turn, he was up inside of me and said, `Gee, man, I might need some help.' I said, `You're going to have to wait.' "

Charismatic, the faster horse, ran past Stephen Got Even and bulled his way outside.

"He actually made contact with my horse and forced me out a little bit," Stevens said. "As he was going on, I hollered at him, `Go on with it, little buddy.'

"But he was already out. I did not let him out. He was coming out whether I let him out or didn't let him out."

And then, Stevens said, "Man, I got up the next morning and was reading The Baltimore Sun. I said, `My God, Nick Zito has got to be going nuts right now.' "

Zito is the trainer of Stephen Got Even. Stevens said he contacted Zito, explained what happened and Zito accepted the explanation.

Stevens will not ride Stephen Got Even in the Belmont Stakes (Shane Sellers will), but that's not because of the Preakness.

Stevens had already made plans to move to England. Except for occasional mounts in the United States, he said, he plans on riding the rest of his career in Europe.

As for Antley, he will be back with Charismatic in the Belmont on June 5 in quest of horse racing's 12th Triple Crown. But before shifting his focus entirely to the Belmont, Antley offered these final words about Stevens and the Preakness:

"Gary was riding his mount the whole way. I said, `Gary, give me a shot.' And he said, `You're going to have to wait.'

"But I had already begun my move, because I had so much horse. Gary really had no choice. I was coming out no matter what."

As Charismatic passed, Antley said, "Gary hollered, `Go on, little buddy.' He was rooting for me after I went by. That meant so much to me."

When told of the jockeys' explanations, Di Tullo, the fan from Columbia, said he accepts their story.

"But when I read the articles in The Sun, I was astounded," Di Tullo said. "Actually, I was a little perturbed."

Like thousands of Marylanders, Di Tullo bet on the Preakness. He bet a trifecta (the horses finishing first, second and third) of Charismatic, Menifee and Stephen Got Even.

Charismatic and Menifee finished first and second. But Stephen Got Even finished fourth, charging at the end.

Di Tullo wanted to make sure that Stevens had not compromised Stephen Got Even by helping Antley and Charismatic along their way toward a Triple Crown.

NOTE: Antley and Stevens were among 11 jockeys named yesterday to ride in the annual All-Star Jockey Championship on June 25 at Lone Star Park in Texas. Edgar Prado, Maryland's top jockey, also was selected to compete in the prestigious event.

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